In addition, the founder of a new association contacted several of us in the association seeking to start a "founders group" within the American Society of Association Executives.
When I mentioned this to an association magazine editor, she expressed surprise that people would be starting new organizations during a down economy. Is it?
I don't have any supporting data to suggest how wide spread this is so can't say it is a trend. Not unlike the corporate sector, founders of nonprofits face several challenges.
Bruce Butterfield of The Forbes Group summarized those challenges in three categories: will, resources and time. If one is missing, the endeavor will fail from the beginning.
- Will means that you have a burning desire to make the association succeed and will slog on even when things get rough.
- Resources include access to the market (I started what appeared to be a viable association, but it found that there was no easy way to reach the field), start-up capital (in my experience, this needs to be about $250,000, though I done a couple for much less), management (usually the founder in the beginning but quickly transitioning to an AMC or part time administrator).
- Time often becomes the big bugaboo. Most founders have jobs and are attempting to create the association in their off hours. It takes a great deal of time to get the organization up and running. I had one founder whose idea was well formed, had resources, had a good strategic and business plan and had others willing to pitch in but who was running a growing firm that allowed him little time to devote to the association. As a result, it never got off the ground.
Based on my experience in founding three startups and managing four others (two of which failed), these three elements ring true to me.
Meanwhile, all this has started me wondering. Many startup businesses have access to funds from "angel investors." Why don't we have similar funds for startup nonprofits? Especially in this era of corporate social responsibility?